Our thoughts are with you – our friends, supporters, and partners – during these very challenging times. You may have wondered how this pandemic is affecting Lewa. We remain deeply committed to supporting local communities in northern Kenya and protecting the vulnerable wildlife you care about, even amidst a global emergency. This update shares the actions we have taken to weather this difficult period.
Due to COVID-19, all international passenger flights into Kenya have ceased, resulting in a halt to Africa’s critical tourism industry virtually overnight. Lewa and regional partner organisations are experiencing an immediate, massive drop in tourism revenue. For Lewa, zero tourism will deplete more than 22 percent of the Conservancy’s core revenue, or roughly $1.2 million (£970,00) in 2020 that normally supports wildlife conservation and vital community programmes. Loss of tourism and event revenue, including cancelling the internationally renowned Lewa Marathon, along with anticipated declines in charitable giving may mean at least $2.6 million (£2.1 million) loss of revenue to Lewa this year.
The cessation of tourism and global economic fallout are also leading to large-scale job losses across Kenya. We anticipate a spike in instability, great need among communities, and increased poaching pressure in the coming months, with rhino horn, according to some reports, even being touted in parts of Asia as a cure for coronavirus.
In response, Lewa has taken quick, whilst difficult measures to cut monthly costs and operate only in areas of greatest need during this crisis. Cuts to all staff salaries, in Kenya and internationally, have been made and we have paused all programmes other than those most critical in the crisis.
Lewa’s priorities in these challenging times will focus primarily on the following four areas:
Security and Anti-Poaching to ensure species like the critically endangered black rhino continue to be protected, and Lewa continues to play a leading role within Kenya’s conservancy movement as the beating heart of security through the central command centre, helicopter response team, and superbly trained security teams monitoring the wider conservancy landscape. Support for security and anti-poaching at Lewa and in partnership with NRT ensures continued protection and incident response for more than 10 million acres in northern Kenya.
The Health Programme, including medical services, clinic operations and outreach programmes will continue supporting communities around Lewa and ensure marginalised populations living in remote areas can access basic healthcare and health education. The 50,000 people served by the four clinics supported under Lewa’s Health Programme will depend on those clinics for frontline care as COVID-19 spreads.
The Women’s Micro-Credit Programme, which offers micro-loans to thousands of women whose small businesses are financial lifelines for their families, and which will be even more vital in an economic downturn. Approximately 1,800 women and their families currently depend on this programme to provide starter finance for their home-grown businesses, income that will be even more critical as unemployment increases.
Finally, Lewa will continue our commitment to the Education Programme and the more than 400 children who depend on Lewa’s Bursary Pool Fund for school tuition, books, uniforms, school materials, and meals. Although schools are currently closed, students will need this support when they reopen, and we will be dynamically reviewing the situation as it evolves to explore options such as stipends for teachers and support for families who most need it should schools remain closed for an extended period.
Lewa has consistently proven that we can beat the odds during the many challenges experienced since its inception. We have done so through optimism, resilience and working together. We will draw upon those strengths now to get through this period and are very lucky to also have a close community of staff, neighbours, friends, and advisors on our side.
The people behind Lewa are the heart and soul of the organisation. We urge all of you to take care of yourselves and your families during this time so that we can welcome you and all of our visitors back to Lewa as soon as possible.
Be well, stay safe, and best wishes from your friends at Lewa.
CEO, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy